Ta Keo is one of the biggest temples built during the Khmer Empire and it was built a couple of hundred years before Angkor Wat temple.
Ta Keo was built as the state temple for Jayavarman V and he started construction in 975 AD. Unusually, the temple was never finished. There are many stories as to why Ta Keo was never completed, but nobody knows the real reason.
Nowadays, Ta Keo is quite a popular temple with visitors because of its sheer size – five sanctuary towers sit on top of a 22m stepped pyramid.
Around 1000 AD (11th century AD)
30 - 60 minutes
Siem Reap: 15.6km
Angkor Thom: 3.5km
Angkor Wat: 6.5km
Ta Prohm: 1.5km
Ta Keo is one of the most popular temples in the park and is often visited on the Angkor Small Circuit Tour. Not all tours include Ta Keo, so if you’re specifically looking to visit this temple, then check with your tour operator first.
If you’re on a shared or private tour and Ta Keo isn’t specifically listed on the itinerary, it’s unlikely that you’ll be stopping here. Make sure that you choose a shared tour which includes Ta Keo if you want to visit.
Why Visit Ta Keo?
Ta Keo is very popular because it’s one of the larger temples in the park. It’s also unique because it was never finished and contains very little decoration. There is thick jungle surrounding the area. As you stand at the top of Ta Keo, you can just see the tops of green trees in all directions.
Construction of Ta Keo temple was started by King Jayavarman V in 975 AD. However, it wasn’t until nearly 25 years later that it was dedicated to Shiva. After Jayavarman’s death, construction of the temple stopped and Ta Keo was left unfinished.
There are inscriptions which say that a lightning struck the temple. The lightning was a bad omen and this has been suggested as the reason why construction stopped.
Ta Keo continued to be used as a place of worship until the 13th century.
It’s believed that Ta Keo was deserted at some point in the 16th century as most of the temples became disused around this time.
Ta Keo was rediscovered in the late 19th century.
Layout and Design
Ta Keo was the state temple of Jayavarman V and it was built to look very similar to his father’s state temple – Pre Rup. There are five sanctuary towers built on top of a five-tiered pyramid. This temple mountain was surrounded by a moat which was a symbol of Mount Meru, the mythical home of the Hindu gods.
Ta Keo is one of the largest temples built during the Khmer Empire. It looks even bigger because there are very few carvings or sculptures – the decoration work had just started when construction stopped.
The temple is historically significant because it was the first temple to have been made completely by sandstone.
The Tiered Pyramid
The first tier of the pyramid structure is surrounded by a large sandstone wall. There are four entrance gates (gopuras), one on each of the four walls. On the eastern entrance gate, there is a large 20m room. This room was likely used as a shelter for visitors and travellers. This first tier and outer wall measure 122m by 106m.
The second terrace measures 80m by 75m. Here you will see galleries surrounding this enclosure, however there are no doors. This means that the galleries were likely to have been for decoration rather than be used for any particular reason. Much of this second tier is difficult to explore due to the large number of stones dotted all over the floor. Some parts of this area are also out of bounds to visitors.
The Upper Tiers
The top three tiers are very steep and narrow. They add a lot of height to the structure and together they measure 14m tall. There is a steep staircase on each side of the temple, but they are not all accessible to tourists.
On the top tier, you will find the five sanctuary towers. There is one tower on each corner, with a larger sanctuary in the middle. Each one has doors which open in all four directions. This is unusual for temples built before Ta Keo because earlier temples often had fake doors on three side with one opening to the east.
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